SHAME ON YOU SPECTRUM

I just read an article from Spectrum titled, “You Will Never Understand Racism Like I Do.” The article is a clear example of what is wrong with the conversation about “race” in America.

First, whenever a conversation about race is discussed with whites and about whites, it is usually if not always from the white perspective. The anglo culture becomes the undeclared, unchallenged norm from which all other perspectives are judged without dispute. For example, in Theology, theologians call the interpretation of non-white theologians(African American, Hispanic, Asian) with a different perspective “liberation theology,” thereby removing their theological interpretation from the mainstream of thought and marginalizing their perspectives instead of critically challenging their own long held suppositions.

The article in Spectrum begins with some long held ‘white’ suppositions about race that need to be challenged. One is “white” innocence or naivety that whites always appeal to whenever they say or do something that is beyond the pale of decency or protocol. The new trend is to call anything they say that is out of order an attack against “political correctness.” You will hear this whenever someone white goes off the rails and says something so abhorrent or obscene that it defies any sensibility or ethical sanity.

Second, the article did a poor job of investigating the facts in general and the specific incident surrounding the student’s original engagement with the professor. As the article points out, the student was the professor’s “reader.” As such, she regularly graded papers for the professor from other students and knew the quality of papers other students turned in and the grades they received for the work they produced. What caused the “red flag” for her was receiving such a “low” grade when she knew that the quality of her paper exceeded that of other students in the class. It was this fact, based on her knowledge of papers that she previously graded for the professor that caused her to challenge the grade she received. It was upon inquiry, that she discovered her professor’s objection with her paper was based more on the “content” than its quality. He disagreed with her position on “white privilege'” and based on that disagreement, gave her a lower grade.

Spectrum ignores this discriminatory issue that students of color often face and to what extent this kind of racist behavior, either consciously or subconsciously effects the ability of Anglo professors to fairly treat and grade them. How often have students of color been subjected to harsh, unfair treatment or a lesser grade, because they were non-white; or because their views did not comport with those of their white professor? Why is it that Spectrum did not in any way explore this issue? Why did they not investigate whether this particular professor had a history of this kind of behavior of racial bias in his grading in previous classes or with previous students?  Instead it dealt with the very low hanging fruit of trying to understand, sympathize or justify the professor’s actions as a possible misunderstanding or lack of sensitivity, portraying the matter in more unambiguous or defensible terms.

The reality is, the professor allowed his racial bias to cloud his ability to fairly analyze and evaluate the quality of his student’s academic work. He penalized her unduly because her views on race did not agree with his. Her position on white privilege triggered in him hidden biases that he had about the issue and caused him to mistreat her and punish her for voicing that opinion in her paper. In his position of power, this bias was exacerbated when he penalized her academically by giving her a lower grade.

Spectrum’s shoddy reporting leads to another problem. Spectrum made several factual errors in the article.  It said the “It’s Time” movement was the result of an MLK program.  That is factually inaccurate.  It is well documented that it actually was a Black History Chapel.  But I guess to Spectrum, it was just another “Black” program so what difference did it make…”MLK,” “Black History,” …Tomàto…Tomäto…what’s the difference, why bother getting it right, they all look alike.

I could go on about the authors treatment of the faculty member’s “colorblind” view of race in order to explain away his comment to the student that she shouldn’t express pride for being black, using some kind of false spirituality in trying to make Jesus complicit in his bigotry by saying we are “One in Christ.” Really?  Why is it that no one ever tells Jews to stop taking pride in being Jewish because we are “One in Christ.”  I wonder how that would come across?

Spectrum, like many, so called “liberal” magazines, thinks it can get a pass with this kind of inept racial reporting because from time-to-time it tries to hold the General Conference’s feet to the fire on issues like Women’s Ordination or creation science.  But it continues to do a poor job when it comes to making an honest credible effort on issues of race, specifically related to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Does Spectrum have the kind of editorial board and racial representation with individuals in positions of power so that when it ventures into subjects like this it will do a better job of getting to the REAL problem and hold itself accountable in the future?  Only time will tell.

5 thoughts on “SHAME ON YOU SPECTRUM

  1. Pastor Nixon,
    In reading your response to Spectrum, it is obvious that by calling out bias on the part of Spectrum, you’ve revealed your own!!! There are so many things wrong with this opinion piece, it’s not even funny! The most obvious is the number of conjectures and assumptions made to come to desired conclusions. I will only mention a few, but enough to put doubt in the minds of the readers who don’t want bias:
    1. Your first assumption is that everything the student has said is the unadulterated truth! If neither you or I were there, would it not be fair to hear both sides before making a judgment? Do you know what the professor says he actually said? Are you privy to any of his responses (I assume he has responded to the administration)? Has it crossed your mind that perhaps the student was telling partial truth, adulterated truth, etc? Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like it–you make the assumption and run with it!!! Even our laws of the land say you’re innocent until proven guilty–in this case, you’ve pronounced the professor guilty already! God help us! Is this the way God teaches us to do “christianity?” Even God Himself, when wrongly accused by Lucifer, allowed Lucifer to tell his deceitful story (while He tells His), and each one of us is to make our own judgment. Here, you’ve made the judgment on behalf of all your readers, and the pronouncement is guilt–no fairness, no discussion, no real evidence. You choose to take the student’s word as gospel, and that’s good enough–why is that? Anyone looking at your facebook page, as well as publications in various places, can figure it out relatively easily, but that’s up to each person to do! I won’t do what you did!
    2. In your 7th paragraph above, you accuse Spectrum of shoddy reporting by saying “But I guess to Spectrum, it was just another “Black” program so what difference did it make…”MLK,” “Black History,” …Tomàto…Tomäto…what’s the difference, why bother getting it right, they all look alike.” So, while you accuse Spectrum of not differentiating between various black programs, you yourself don’t bother to differentiate between various white cultures. Obviously, by his last name, you would come to the conclusion that this specific professor is Eastern European (Slavic), and I actually had it confirmed. It doesn’t seem to bother you to put all whites in the same basket and not differentiate between their cultural differences. Why?
    3. A senior student who is a reader for a professor may grade quizzes and tests where they have a “key” provided by the professor. In at least most cases, even a graduate student would not be grading research papers! In this specific case, my son-in-law was a student of his and the professor is known for always diligently grading essays and research papers himself. As such, a reader would NOT be grading essays or research papers. That work is done by the professor himself who has to evaluate the student’s knowledge through the essay/research paper. Therefore, not having graded any of the research papers, the student would not have been able to make any grade comparisons. So, your statement and conclusion is off base and deceitful.
    4. As you are likely aware (I will not speculate as to how you are aware) and as it’s been publicly reported, the student’s paper was graded numerous additional times after the professor. In each case the grade stood! Obviously, ALL reviewers agreed that the grade should stand–did you get that? So, why is it that you don’t reveal this? Is it because you don’t know–if so, you should do your homework better before making accusations!!!??? Or, is it simply because the truth is not convenient??? In my opinion, neither one is good–neither one gives you the right or the excuse for what you have written above!!! I happen to believe it’s the second, but that’s for each reader to research the truth and form an opinion.
    I have done my research! I know the published facts of both sides–only the two parties involved were there, but you speak as if you were there and your conclusions are indisputable. How is that? Where did you get your information of what ACTUALLY happened?
    Since you have made so many suppositions, let me make one myself! By your last name, I would assume that you are somehow closely related to Michael Nixon, who’s tweet I read where he encouraged his good friend to “keep on grinding”, obviously a huge supporter of the “cause”. And, did you or Michael happen to scroll through this student’s twitter page, only to find obscenity, nudity, sexual intercourse simulation, racial slurs, violence against white people, and a lot more!!! As a university administrator, I would be embarrassed to be identified as a close friend and publicly a Twitter “friend” of a “christian” student, at a “christian” university!
    Your opinion piece is entitled “Shame On You Spectrum”–I say, “Shame On You Mr./Pastor Nixon” for letting your bias be so transparent to the point of twisting the facts and making suppositions. I hope you choose to meditate on the fact that there is One up above who knows, and He cannot be manipulated!

    Speaking of fairness, let’s see if my response is posted or deleted!

    P.S. You may want the opinion of other students of the professor, one of which has commented under the Spectrum article you so vehemently oppose.

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    1. Hello Frannie,
      You sound very passionate in your response which is good. First, the student did grade her professor’s essays and as mentioned in the piece she graded other essays in that class and was able to make the comparison with her own work, hence the reason for her query about her grade. By the way, it is not uncommon for some professors to have readers correct essays as well as quizzes. All professors are not quite as diligent as you might assume. As I mentioned in the article it was at that point when she confronted her professors about her grade, that she realized his reason for the lower grade was due to his disagreement with the “content” of her paper. Because she disagreed with him, in relation to the issue of “white privilege,” he penalized her in his grading. This was an issue that Spectrum failed completely to address. It seems to be one that you fail to address as well because this is an issue of power, ironically an example of “white privilege,” that non-whites face everyday in their interactions with whites in positions of power. And just to correct you, the reviewers did not give her the same grade as her professor. Nor did they evaluate the grades of the other essays of his other students to make the comparisons between their papers and hers, to see why she made the query in the first place. You need to get your facts straight.

      Second, This is further why I take Spectrum to task for not doing further research to find out if the experience of this student was isolated or perhaps a pattern with this particular professor. Did they bother to explore that issue, like any credible journalist would have done to see if that was the case? But no, they did not. Instead they decided to follow their own preconceived conclusion of what they believed the possible reasons for the teachers responses might have been to fit their preconceived conclusions. Conclusions that comport with acceptable anglo reasoning and behavior. This is also an issue that you have no interest in pursuing. This leads me to wonder if Spectrum has any kind of diversity in their editorial staff. If they did, perhaps a person of color in a position of power with a different perspective would have advised them to explore other scenarios before moving forward with their piece. Did they do this? Do they have such diversity and if they do, did they have any dissenting voices that advised them not to publish the piece in its present form? Is this of any interest to you? Or are you more concerned with attacking me to defend Spectrum? Are you interested in finding out the truth or defending the professor? Who I am related to is a non-issue. It is always the case whenever an issue is raised, instead of addressing the issue to change the subject by attacking the person. Don’t try to make me the issue. Address the topic.

      The issue of race is America’s original sin. It deeply infects and impacts every aspect of American life. And the historical record of white racial discrimination is long, well documented and very deep. Yet anglos seem to consistently refuse to acknowledge or admit that such a history exists. Or if they do admit that it exists, they refuse to acknowledge that it plays any significant roll in their actions today. They consistently act as if they are immune to their past and that we should all believe that their present behavior has no connection to that history, unlike all other human beings. And this denial is the reason race and racism continues to infect and impact America as it does, because many Americans refuse to face that reality and address the issue honestly, fully, completely and directly. In my blog I will refuse to countenance such denial. I will not skirt the issue, side step it or allow anyone to knock me off course with diversionary tactics. Your arguments are diversions from the truth about race and racism that continues to infect America like a growing terminal malignant tumor. The only way in my view to cure it is to due radical surgery and remove the tumor. I respect your right to disagree, I hope you respect my right to face the truth and confront these issues head on.

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      1. Pastor Nixon,

        Your response goes off into something I did not engage in as part of the discussion. In my comments to you, I did not open a discussion on racism! I simply challenged the facts you used to attack Spectrum. Those are two different things, and I will not be dragged there. Again, my point was that any conclusions we come up with MUST be based on facts–when the facts are misrepresented, the conclusions are wrong. What your analysis seems to have done is come up with the conclusion, and adjust the facts accordingly. So, here we go again!

        FACT 1: Unless you were present during this confrontation, OR reviewed the file of evidence and responses from both parties, you DO NOT know what happened. Yet, you claim you do! Have you spoken to the professor? You Do NOT claim you have! So, where are the facts?

        FACT 2: This was not an essay, as in an essay question in a test–it was a research paper! Readers DO NOT normally grade research papers, especially undergraduate readers. As such, she DID NOT grade other student’s research papers–the professors did! It’s not helpful for you to generalize by referring to what “some” professors do in grading–we are talking about “this” professor! I challenge you to get the facts on this and post it the source–contact the professor and have it confirmed as to who graded the research papers. If wrong, I will publicly apologize to you–if you’re wrong, the professor deserves your apology. You see, the sky doesn’t cease to be blue just because one insists that it’s green!

        FACT 3: I never said that the other reviewers gave her the same grade. I said that after the numerous reviews, the GRADE STOOD! In fact, some reviews may have given her an even lower grade than the professors did, we just do not know. With none of us being privy to what exactly is in the file and what exact grades the reviewers gave, we are left with THE FACT that the GRADE STOOD!

        FACT 4: The reviewing professors do not need to read all the other research papers. They are grading this paper on its own merits. I do not believe that the research papers were graded on a curve–as any other research paper, they were graded on information presented and discussed, credible sources, and the basic merit of the student’s ability to put all this into a package to be evaluated by the expert professor.

        FACT 5: I am not defending Spectrum and you have no right to make that accusation. I never in my response to you attacked or defended Spectrum–that was not my purpose. If I have a problem with Spectrum, I will address Spectrum! In this case, I had a problem with your assumptions/conclusions, so I addressed you. Let’s not muddy the water and deflect from the real issue.

        FACT 6: Speaking of trying to get to the facts, did you read the comments of an actual AU student who, for our purposes here, is the closest to the situation? A student, who has had an experience with the professor, AND personally got an account from students that overheard the whole exchange. Why do you not take that into consideration as part of your conclusions? Why are you selective?

        FACT 7: Contrary to what you’d like your readers to believe, everything that occurs is not about racism. Life is bigger than that. We simply cannot take everything unpleasant that happens, and blame it on racism. Did you read the student’s research paper? Are you an expert in the field to assess? Is she the expert to assess what grade she should be given? Is there even a possibility in your mind that this student’s work could’ve/should’ve been done better? You see, if it’s all about racism, then merit is totally discredited!!! That’s a concept totally discredited by Scripture!

        I will not respond to your long paragraph on racism–as stated, my remarks to you were not to debate that issue, but to address your lack of facts, your assumptions and your conclusions. That, is not a racism issue–it is an issue of not being informed and not being honest!

        With that, I will conclude this conversation UNLESS you are ready to post, not just your opinion (presented as fact), but actual EVIDENCE for your assumptions. I’d be happy to look at that. In the process, perhaps you’d be motivated and consider following Matthew 18 where we are advised on how to handle conflict. That, would require you to speak to the actual party you accuse!

        In the meantime, pastor Nixon, remember: THE SKY DOESN’T CEASE TO BE BLUE, JUST BECAUSE ONE INSISTS THAT IT IS GREEN!

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      2. Frannie Paterson,

        When did you become the Arbiter of “Facts.” Do you know anything about this incident at all independent of the article written by Spectrum yourself? Your arrogance is amazing but typical. By what or whose authority did you become some authority to determine the parameters of fact and fiction? I don’t have time to waste going point by point through your diatribe. I will not appropriate to you some level of authority that you have neither earned nor deserve. I will simply say that I was able on my own to unearth enough information to pretty much refute every assumption that Spectrum used in their article to support their flimsy suppositions about the professor in the article. It was easy for me to find students who had taken classes from the same professor had experienced similar or worse incidents of discrimination. I also confirmed that Spectrum was advised not to publish the article in the form that it was written because of its flaws and erroneous suppositions. However, against that advice it chose to move forward with the article anyway.
        It is this kind of misguided irresponsible journalism, especially with regard to racial issues, that distorts and discredits the genuine issues about race and discrimination that people of color face everyday. But as usual those issues are missed completely when publications like Spectrum refuse to do a credible or profession job in treating the issues seriously. Instead they use the issue as an opportunity to try and portray themselves as a liberal windbag that gives a balanced voice to a sensitive racial issue, instead of addressing the real problem.
        A professor in a position a power, abused that power, with his student. Not only did he give her a lower grade because she did not agree with his view of white privilege, but then engaged in an aggressive argument with her that challenged her personal dignity and questioned her personhood. The relationship between the professor and the student was not a relationship of equals but of an adult professor and a subordinate to him on two levels. The first as his student and second as his employee. His engagement with her bordered on abuse on several levels, not to mention discrimination.
        It is really interesting to me that you a female seeing all of these other issues at play would still use your energy to defend the professor. But I guess race is truly powerful and blinding; and loyalty to race overpowers every other sensibility. I raised these issues to hopefully help you see how powerful and irrational race can be. Look at who you are defending in this issue. Look at the dialogue the professor engaged in with a student. Read it carefully again. Are you sure this is the side of the issue you want to find yourself on. As it relates to Matthew 18, try for yourself Matthew 25 and see how well you are using it and the dictum of the “least of these.” Who in this scenario represents the “Least of These.”

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